WALTER READE THEATER HOSTS FILM SERIES

What's on the menu at a movie house that wants to beat video, cable TV, and other competitors at their own game? This month's program at the new Walter Reade Theater includes:

* "Great Beginnings: First Films by Great Directors." Remember when Woody Allen debuted with "Take the Money and Run," and when Mike Nichols got his start with "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"? Moviegoers with still longer memories may recall "The Maltese Falcon" from John Huston in 1941, and even "Applause" from Rouben Mamoulian in 1929. And don't forget "Shadows," by John Cassavetes, and "The Bellboy," by Jerry Lewis, both released in 1960.

* "The Movie That Changed my Life." Based on a new book edited by David Rosenberg, this film-and-lecture program features several authors explaining the larger-than-life impact of a vividly remembered movie. Speakers include Jayne Anne Phillips on "The Premature Burial," poet Grace Schulman on "Beauty and the Beast," and essayist Phillip Lopate on "Diary of a Country Priest."

* "It Can't Happen Here: Films of the Great Depression." Fiction and nonfiction movies released after the crash of 1929, from Frank Capra's banking melodrama "American Madness" to Luis Trenker's little-known "The Lost Son," about the Wall Street adventures of a German mountaineer. Short films and newsreels round out many of the shows.

* "Reemergence: Jewish Life in Eastern Europe." An international festival cosponsored by the Jewish Museum here, with films as varied as "The Mission of Raoul Wallenberg," a dramatic documentary from Russia, and "March Caresses," a Polish comedy-drama about the upheavals of 1968.

Special programs for the theater's first month have ranged from "Wynton and Pops: A Tribute to Louis Armstrong" to screenings of Jean Renoir's masterly "The Golden Coach" in a newly restored version. Coming soon is a major retrospective of Swiss filmmaker Alain Tanner, and "The Magic of Art," a program of Philip Haas's documentaries on tradition-oriented artists in various countries.

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